East Lynne  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

East Lynne is an English sensation novel of 1861 by Ellen Wood. East Lynne was a Victorian bestseller. It is remembered chiefly for its elaborate and implausible plot, centering on infidelity and double identities. There have been numerous stage and film adaptations.

The much-"quoted" line: : "Gone! And never called me mother!" (variant: "Dead! Dead! And never called me mother!") does not appear in the book version of East Lynne. Both variants come from later stage adaptations.


Plot summary

Lady Isabel Carlyle, a beautiful and refined young woman, leaves her hard-working but neglectful lawyer-husband and her infant children to elope with an aristocratic suitor. After he deserts her, and she bears their illegitimate child, Lady Isabel disguises herself and takes the position of governess in the household of her former husband and his new wife.


East Lynne has been adapted for the stage many times; the play was so popular that stock companies put on a performance whenever they needed guaranteed revenue. The play was staged so often that critic Sally Mitchell estimates some version was seen by audiences in either England or North America every week for over forty years.

There have been many silent film versions of the book. One of them, starring Theda Bara, was made in 1916. The story has been refilmed as recently as 1982, in a BBC made-for-television production starring Lisa Eichhorn.

1931 Film

A film version of East Lynne was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931. The movie was adapted from the novel by Tom Barry and Bradley King and directed by Frank Lloyd. The film is a melodrama starring Ann Harding, Clive Brook, Conrad Nagel and Cecilia Loftus. Only one copy of the film is known to exist.


Critical assessment

Some critics argue that the novel champions middle classes over the lower orders; others, however, find this claim "too simplistic" and argue that the novel "highlights the shortfalls inherent to bourgeois masculinity." Sally Mitchell argues that the novel simultaneously upholds and undermines middle-class values.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "East Lynne" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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